Scientist presses probabilistic map use for LGU plans (LCCAD)

This is a news release from the Local Climate Change Adaptation for Development (LCCAD) embargoed until September 11, 2017.

QUEZON CITY – “A multi-hazard map is more important than single hazard maps in saving lives and averting disasters,” a multi-awarded Filipino scientist said during his lecture for the towns of Catarman and Capul, Northern Samar.

Mahar Lagmay, geologist and Executive Director of the University of the Philippines Resilience Institute (UP RI) and the UP Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards (NOAH) Center, was the resource speaker for the 3-day training workshop (September 6-8, 2017) for the formulation of Community Climate Vulnerability and Disaster Risk Assessment in preparation for Barangay Contingency and Adaptation Plans (CCVDRA-BCAP) of 55 barangay captains of Catarman, and 12 barangay captains of Capul towns. Together with them are their respective Association of Barangay Captains (ABC) Presidents and municipal technical managers.

The event, being conducted in a series of batches, is hosted by the Local Climate Change and Adaptation for Development (LCCAD) in partnership with the UP Resilience Institute, 2nd Congressional Office of Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda, the Special Committee on Climate Change of the House of Representatives headed by Ako Bikol Partylist Rep. Christopher S. Co, City Mayor Noel Rosal of Legazpi, Albay, 3rd District Rep. Fernando V. Gonzales, and the Philippine Information Agency (PIA-5) led by Regional Director Aida A. Naz.

LCCAD Executive Director Manuel Rangasa said that the event is in response to the call of Pres. Rodrigo Roa Duterte to mainstream Climate Change Adaptation (CCA) and Disaster Risk Reduction and Vulnerability Reduction (DRRVR) into local development planning processes. It is also the country’s commitment to the Paris Agreement aside from being an input to House Bill 6075 which will enact a new law creating the Department of Disaster Resilience under the sponsorship of Rep. Salceda.

Lagmay cited the important aspects of effective disaster prevention and mitigation noting the responsibility of the government in giving warnings, the response of the people, and the use of appropriate hazard maps.

“It is the responsibility of the government to deliver accurate, readily accessible, understandable, and timely warnings. However, no amount of warning will work or will be effective if hazard maps are inappropriate,” he said.

Hazard mapping and risk assessment

Lagmay presented the deterministic and probabilistic types of hazard maps used by the government in depicting hazard scenarios and executing DRR plans. Deterministic hazard maps are based mainly on historical recollection and the people’s experience which might make it inaccurate in predicting disasters. Probabilistic maps, on the other hand, rely on scientific data in assessing risk by simulating future multiple scenarios of disasters such as floods, storm surges, and landslides.

“While historical losses can explain the past, they do not necessarily provide a good guide to the future; most disasters that could happen have not happened yet. Probabilistic risk assessment simulates those future disasters which, based on scientific evidence, are likely to occur. As a result, these risk assessments resolve the problem posed by the limits of historical data,” he explained.

Lagmay cited examples of thousands of people killed and properties ruined due to the use of inaccurate maps such as during the onslaught of typhoon Pablo in Compostela Valley in 2012 and the Supertyphoon Yolanda in Tacloban, Leyte in 2013 where evacuation centers were constructed in disaster prone areas, killing people right at the evacuation centers where they supposedly sought refuge.

“In Compostela Valley, 566 people heeded warnings by seeking refuge in an evacuation center but it became their grave when a massive debris flow overwhelmed the site,” he said.

“Another example is the Yolanda disaster where 70 percent of evacuation centers in Tacloban were inundated by storm surges, which only tells us that the storm surge hazard maps were erroneous if they were used in the city’s disaster mitigation plan,” Lagmay furthered.

Lagmay said deterministic maps were used in those times.

Moreover, it was in 2012 when the government invested in hazard maps using frontier science and advanced technology to map out the Philippine landscape at very high resolutions.

With this map, Lagmay noted, safe and hazard prone areas can accurately be identified to build a well-planned and resilient community against disasters. “During disasters, it is very important to see safe areas rather than the danger zones because it is where you relocate people,” he added.

Hazard maps available for public use

Lagmay said that the availability and accessibility of near-real time data via Android platforms provided people with more accurate information allowing them to respond appropriately and save lives like what happened during the Habagat Flood in Marikina and the Ruby Storm Surge in 2014, both resulted in no casualties despite a massive number of houses destroyed.

Lagmay said that maps are available in the NOAH website and in an award-winning mobile app called Arko. The NOAH maps are distributed to empower local government units (LGUs) and even individuals.

He also noted that by knowing the hazards in their neighborhood, people are made aware of the dangers in their community – this is the first step in effective disaster preparedness and mitigation. This entails long term education and cultivating a culture of safety and preparedness in communities along with the standardization of a national CCA-DRR program.

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